Travel news: South Africa reopens to Britons ‘effective immediately’

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South Africa has now reopened its international borders to all countries, including the UK, it has been confirmed.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday that the country would be lifting the ban on visitors from its list of ‘high risk’ countries but did not say when the changes would go into effect. The South African Tourism UK board has now stated that the new rules kick in “effective immediately”.

Travellers will be required to present a negative Covid-19 test taken with 72 hours of departure but otherwise face no restrictions. 

South Africa does not yet have a travel corridor with the UK, but given its a Covid low case rate of 19.5 per 100,000 based on seven-day figures, could soon have one approved.

Eight new countries were added to the travel green list on Thursday, marking a victory for The Telegraph’s Unlock Long-haul campaign; Bahrain, Chile, Iceland, Cambodia, Laos, UAE, Qatar and Turks & Caicos Islands.

Scroll down for more of the latest news.

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Greece tightens lockdown restrictions

Greek authorities announced on Saturday the closure of nurseries and primary schools until the end of November, tightening a nationwide lockdown after a spike in Covid-19 cases.

Greece has fared better than many other European countries in tackling the coronavirus, mainly due to an early nationwide lockdown imposed weeks after the pandemic broke out in February.

A gradual increase in infections since early October has forced authorities to reimpose restrictions and order a second nationwide lockdown, which expires at the end of November and includes a night curfew from 9 pm to 5 am.

On Saturday, the government tightened the measures further, closing primary schools and nurseries from Monday for two weeks until the end of the lockdown period. Distance learning has already been implemented in secondary schools and universities.

Greece registered 3,038 new coronavirus cases on Friday. On Thursday it recorded 3,316 new infections and 50 deaths, the highest daily tolls recorded during the pandemic so far.

What could a ‘vaccine visa’ look like?

The encouraging news that pharma giant Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine could be up to 90 per cent effective is a boost that the travel industry so desperately needed.  

However, hurdles remain, from the jab passing further safety tests and being approved for use, to the complex matter of rolling it out on a massive scale. As inoculating entire nations is likely to take a significant amount of time, many countries may ask visitors to prove they have been vaccinated against Covid-19 – an evolution of the increasingly adopted measure of providing evidence of a recent negative test. 

Emma Beaumont has more here.

Hays Travel founder John Hays dies

John Hays, founder of North East holiday company Hays Travel, has died, it’s been announced. 

Mr Hays, who started the travel firm in 1980, collapsed on Friday while working at its head office in Sunderland. He was married to co-owner Irene Hays.

Tributes have poured in across social media.

The pair were praised in October 2019 when they prevented thousands of former Thomas Cook staff from losing their jobs by purchasing all 555 of the collapsed tour operator’s UK travel agencies.

In a statement the company said: “It is with the deepest sadness and regret that we have to announce that John Hays, the founder and Managing Director of Hays Travel died today, while doing the job he loved.”

More here.

5 completely normal things you can still do this lockdown

It’s the weekend – and while two-week holidays abroad and weekender staycations may be off the cards, you can still have mini adventures on home turf in and around your own neighbourhood. Here are five of the best ways to do just that…

  • Audio tours. Group tours are out, but some prefer going under their own steam anyway. Enter the audio tour, which give your aimless meanderings purpose – and fills them with facts. With voicemap.me, you can track down the ghost of Anne Boleyn in York with history aficionado James Easton. Search for travel podcasts in your own area and you’re on your way.
  • Wild walks. There couldn’t be a better time to bask in the autumnal hues of our woods and forests. November is prime time for trees to turn vibrant shades and then lose their leaves. You can use a map to find more off-the-beaten track spots, but also know that this time round more of the big-hitters, such as The National Arboretum at Westonbirt in Gloucestershire, are staying open for outdoor recreation and exercise for those that live nearby.
  • Open-air galleries. Some of the world’s best art doesn’t actually lie behind glass in galleries, but is free for all to see. Stroll the streets of the UK’s cities and you’ll find creativity abounds in our country’s massive murals. Manchester’s Northern Quarter is good example.
  • Green spaces. Find the largest stretch of outdoor green space near you and take the time to discover every corner. In Birmingham, that’s the 8,000 acres of Sutton Park where any concerns of social distancing melt into the distance, as Exmoor ponies settle into view. If you’re not sure which parks are near you, make use of Ordnance Survey’s green spaces map 
  • Bird watching. Swap safaris in the African bush for a serious bird watching expedition near to home. Of course, this can be done on a number of walks, but many wetland centres are staying open in Lockdown 2 (pre-booking essential). Near to Newcastle, the Washington Wetland Centre is home to buzzards, redshanks, herons and woodpeckers.

Find more things to do outdoors during lockdown in London, Birmingham, Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol, and Nottingham.

The 22 countries you can visit (after lockdown)

As a reminder, with the new travel corridor destinations taken into account, these are the places you can feasibly visit post-lockdown:

  1. Gibraltar (no restrictions)
  2. Greece, but only Corfu, Crete, Rhodes, Zakynthos and Kos (no restrictions)
  3. Canary Islands (test on arrival)
  4. Jersey (test on arrival)
  5. Madeira (test before departure)
  6. Anguilla (test before departure)
  7. Antigua and Barbuda (test before departure)
  8. Barbados (test before departure)
  9. Bermuda (test before departure)
  10. Cuba (test on arrival)
  11. Dominica (test before departure)
  12. Grenada (test before departure)
  13. St Kitts and Nevis (test before departure)
  14. St Lucia (test before departure)
  15. St Vincent and the Grenadines (test before departure)
  16. Maldives (test before departure)
  17. Mauritius (test before departure)
  18. Seychelles (test before departure)
  19. Chile (test before departure)
  20. Bahrain (test on arrival)
  21. Cambodia (test before departure)
  22. UAE (test before departure)

Sir Rocco Forte: ‘there has been a huge overreaction to Covid, and now we’re down £100 million’

The renowned hotelier Sir Rocco Forte holds nothing back as writes for The Telegraph about Covid and the impact of yet another lockdown:

I came down with Covid on the first Sunday of the first lockdown. I was lucky in that I never had any breathing problems but by the third week I was just like a wet rag. I lost a lot of weight and muscle, it was all quite strange.

Even so, my view has always been that there has been a huge over-reaction to Covid, not just in the UK but everywhere. That’s my position and it becomes more and more my position as we go on.

In the hospitality industry, it’s been a disaster because we’ve effectively had six months with no income, if you include this month. And once we were able to open, the income was very reduced in many, many hotels. My UK properties for example, Brown’s in London and The Balmoral in Edinburgh, which re-opened in August and September, had an occupancy rate of 20% last month. So we’re about £100 million down on last year.

Read the rest here.

India celebrates Diwali despite coronavirus restrictions

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t done much to dampen Diwali celebrations in northern India.

The north Indian city of Ayodhya kept its Guinness World Record for a second year in a row by lighting 606,569 oil lamps and keeping them burning for at least 45 minutes to mark the Hindu festival of lights.

Thousands of volunteers lit the lamps, called diyas, along the Saryu river’s banks, through lanes and at houses as dusk fell Friday in Ayodhya, where Hindus believe the god Ram was born and where he returned after 14 years in exile.

Thousands of visitors ignored social distancing advice thronging the river banks to take in the spectacle. 

What happened yesterday

A quick recap:

  • Global Travel Taskforce submits plans for slashing quarantine
  • Iceland ‘delighted’ by its addition to travel green list 

  • Northern Ireland ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown extended

  • South Africa tourist boss says ‘welcome back’ to UK travellers

  • More cases of Covid-19 on first post-lockdown Caribbean cruise